Before I dive into our weekend adventures, I'd like to say thank you to Organic Mama for featuring me on her blog on Saturday. If you haven't already seen it, head on over to read Confessions of an Expat Mama: Pregnancy and Parenting in Germany.
On Friday, we headed up to Amsterdam by car for our first long weekend away with baby. Contrary to popular belief, this charming city isn't all sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Not only is it absolutely BEAUTIFUL, but it's easy to walk, has such a rich history, and all of the people were incredibly nice. Not to mention that it's actually a pretty kid-friendly culture. I was nervous about taking a five month old on our trip and how well he might do with our usual pace of sightseeing. He got fussy and/or excited (both of which require alot of our attention) during nearly every meal we ate and both nights, didn't go to sleep until 2 a.m. or later (which I'm pretty sure was due to all the sleeping during the day in the car, carrier, or stroller), but overall, I'd call the trip a success!
Our first stop was Keukenhof to see the tulips in bloom, and they did not disappoint. Thankfully, the rain stopped just as we arrived, and it turned out to be really nice weather the rest of the weekend, albeit just a bit on the chilly side. The amount of work that must go into prepping and tending these gardens that are only open for two months out of the year is impressive.
After we finished up our afternoon at the gardens, we headed into the city to check in to our airbnb. It was the cutest modern flat with the most generous host, who left us an extensive list of things to do and places to eat. We have a long history of overestimating what exactly is a reasonable walking distance - we once walked 13 miles in one day in San Francisco - so we set off on foot toward the city center, stopping along the way for the most delightful frozen treat at Ijsmanschap, a homemade popsicle shop.
We saw a few sights, including the I amsterdam sign at Museumplein and had the best burgers from The Butcher at Foodhallen - a cool industrial building filled with cute shops and great food - very similar to Borough Market in London. Good burgers are hard to come by in Germany, so I was super pumped about this find. Josh had the Truffle Burger, and I had the more traditional Butcher with Cheese. We ate them so fast, we forgot to take a picture... this became a theme throughout the trip. We Glessners LOVE food.
Despite the fact that we had already eaten dinner, we stumbled upon the most adorable little Dim Sum restaurant and just couldn't resist... what can I say, I'm a sucker for some steamed pork buns. It was perfectly scrumptious, and Josh and I wholeheartedly agreed that indulgences like two dinners are completely acceptable on vacation. This is why we're married. Unfortunately, the experience ended with me opening the (non-spring) door too hard as we were leaving and smashing my poor finger horribly. Was it worth it, you ask? Absolutely.
After nearly an hour walk each way on Friday and the crippled feet to prove it, we finally learned our lesson and took an Uber the rest of our time in the city. Best investment ever, and you can get your first ride free using this link. I always love not having to deal with the cash and tip situation of a regular taxi :)
On day two, we hit the ground running early-ish (ish because we now have a baby who always takes longer to get out of the house than I anticipate) and headed to the Jordaan district to see the Anne Frank House and Museum. We knew we'd have to wait, but this line was 2+ hours long and we had a sleeping baby, so I became disenchanted with the idea of wasting this precious time in line. (Note: all of the websites say to get to Anne Frank House early to skip the line, but I'm pretty sure everyone heeds that advice. Anytime we could see the area throughout the rest of the day, the line was never as long as it was in the morning.)
We quickly decided to hop out and head to The Pancake Bakery for breakfast. Wanting an authentic Dutch experience, we ordered the poffertjes - the most delightful bite-sized pancakes drowning in butter and dusted with powdered sugar - and a traditional Dutch pancake with apple and bacon cooked in it.
I had spent all of the previous day nursing Miles in the parked car or trying to find a place to sit to feed him, and honestly, it was so exhausting and stressful for both of us. Determined that there MUST be a better way, I lowered the straps of the Ergo carrier - our vehicle of choice for toting a small child around the city, made sure we were covered with a scarf, and nursed him while we walked from one destination to the next. I made Josh take this picture so I could celebrate this small mommy victory :) It was such a timesaver and a much more enjoyable experience for everyone!
After filling up on pancakes, we headed to The Nine Streets - a shopping and food area that spans three canals and is filled with the most adorable boutiques and delicious eateries. I picked up some new earrings, and we stopped into a sweet shop (that unfortunately, I can't remember the name of) for a coffee-hazelnut macaron and a piece of Mud Cake - butter cake filled with a fluffy caramel creme and dipped in chocolate. UPDATE: The credit card statement revealed that the location is Urban Cacao - GO THERE!
Then, we stumbled upon the Amsterdam Cheese Company, which I'm pretty sure is my own personal version of heaven. We sampled nearly everything in the store and left with 40 euro worth of gouda and goat cheese. They even ship internationally!
Since my coffee snob hubby was along, I did my research and found this Esquire-voted Best Coffee in the Netherlands cafe ... not to be confused with an Amsterdam coffee shop ;) It didn't disappoint, and we headed out with a bag of beans to enjoy at home, as well.
Our next stop was the Heineken Brewery for a tour and tasting. The history was really interesting and the factory itself was gorgeous, but it turned into a real bro-fest after the educational stuff. We're talking a 4D ride, techno beats, Xbox stations, and a rooftop bar filled with frat boys. Nothing makes you feel old like being in a place like that with a baby strapped to you :)
After the brewery and seeing as we're well-rounded people, we decided to head over to the Van Gogh Museum to take in some fine art. We were able to purchase tickets on Josh's phone for about an hour later, allowing us to bypass the long lines. We were thrilled to find that the museum was super family friendly - a nice clean family restroom, relaxed atmosphere, and free strollers available at the coat check. You know you're adulting FOR REAL when this is one of the highlights of your vacation. Miles loved his first ride in a big boy stroller - he spent half of the time just looking around and smiling at people and then, quietly passed out.
Van Gogh has always been one of my favorite artists, and the museum definitely did his life and work justice - I highly recommend visiting it if you're going to Amsterdam!
Due to the kid that , as I mentioned earlier, liked to get rowdy during our mealtimes, we decided to go back to Foodhallen for dinner. We knew the casual (and noisy) environment would work for a loud baby, and the food was just that good. We started out with the bitterballen flight from De Ballen Bar. These little croquettes, which are another Dutch specialty, are a deep fried delight!
We knew the Anne Frank House was open late, so we decided to trek back to see if the line was any shorter. It was, in fact, much shorter, but by the time we got inside, we were only going to have about 30 minutes to go through. We decided to put it on our itinerary for next time, along with a canal cruise, more museums, and taking in more neighborhoods around the city.
Just as we were about to get in a cab, I spotted a fresh, hot stroopwafel sign across the street and shouted to Josh that we had to go get one. Two thin wafer-like waffles with warm caramel sandwiched in between... divine!
Seeing as we're only a two and a half hour drive away, we'll definitely be heading back to Amsterdam at least once, if not more, before we leave Europe! Josh and I both agreed that it is, by far, one of our favorite cities that we've visited. If you're interested in adding some of these spots to your itinerary, here's the list of places we went:
- Poffertjes and pancakes at The Pancake Bakery
- IJmanschap Handcrafted Popsicles
- Anything at Foodhallen - we tried The Butcher, De Ballen Bar, Caulils KAAS, and Viet View
- Dim Sum Now for delicious (and healthy!) chinese food
- Mud Cake and Macarons at Urban Cacao
- Amsterdam Cheese Company
- Bocca for a killer cup o' joe
- Fresh stroopwafel from any local shop or vendor
- the tulip gardens at Keukenhof - only open April through May
- shopping and snacking in The Nine Streets
- Anne Frank House - don't go first thing in the morning and even better, plan your trip far enough in advance to reserve a ticketed time slot
- The Heineken Experience - I honestly would probably skip this next time - especially since Heineken beer isn't exactly my style - but it was fun for a one time deal
- Van Gogh Museum - definitely go and definitely reserve your ticket online! You can even do this, like us, on the day of your visit.